Sustainability and innovation point the way for the maritime and port sector

  • 30/01/2024
  • 11 minutes

Good winds point to a promising direction in the maritime and port sector: at the same speed at which ships grow and the flow of navigation intensifies, the search for decarbonization is advancing as a global priority.

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Combining in-depth knowledge of navigation conditions in Brazil, the use of technologies and the adoption of more sustainable practices gave Wilson Sons Towage leadership in the market.

A number of factors contributed to the company being at this level. The implementation of the operations center with real-time monitoring, the use of its modern simulator for training and the collaboration with an innovation hub accelerated the green transformation of the fleet. “Our success goes far beyond our tugboats. Technology emerges, bringing sustainability gains”, says Elísio Dourado, commercial director of Wilson Sons’ Towage unit.

Much is yet to come, says the executive. With a number of new vessels being delivered, the unit is preparing for a future with even more technology and less emissions. “We are well positioned. With the strengthening of our fleet, our perspective is for growth.” Check out the interview.

Sustainability in the business

Decarbonization of the maritime sector is a complex and urgent challenge. Pressure to reduce emissions and minimize environmental impact has encouraged shipping companies to rethink their operations globally.

Tugboats are the high-powered vessels responsible for the safety and maneuverability of ships docking in terminals and ports around the world. In Brazil, Wilson Sons Tugboats form the most powerful fleet with the highest nautical mile coverage. “We are strengthening our fleet, following international standards. We received the first 4 tugboats of a series of 6.”

This movement, announced in 2021, had an additional investment of approximately US$ 300,000 in each of the tugboats, which guarantees them the IMO TIER III rating, which attests to the reduction of more than 70% in nitrogen dioxide emissions, explains the executive. “Built at Wilson Sons Shipyards, the new models also feature an innovative hull design, enabling a reduction of up to 14% in fuel consumption when compared to a similar static traction tugboat.”

With more than 185 years of experience and remarkable operations that blend with the history of Brazil, such as the towing of the central span of the Rio-Niterói Bridge, it was in the same year that Wilson Sons announced the new fleet, that Wilson Sons also became a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an international non-profit organization that focuses on proactive management of carbon footprint reduction and, since then, has been performing consistently on this agenda, above average for its segment. In addition, the company also started to disclose its environmental initiatives through its Sustainability Report.

Operating in more than 30 ports and terminals along the coast, Wilson Sons has a Tugboat Operations Center (COR), which supports the preparation of operational strategies, ensuring safety and the rational use of resources that cause environmental impacts. With real-time monitoring of all activities through a network of Automatic Identification System (AIS) antennas, the facility has been operating uninterruptedly for more than 10 years, providing a reduction of up to 5% in fuel consumption in each operation, guarantees the executive. Navigate only when necessary, at the right time, with the right vessel, and at the optimal speed. In this way, we are reducing our emissions, without neglecting safety, the main product delivered to our Customers.

Tugboats: exploring new technological frontiers

If on the one hand the company is dedicated to integrating sustainability into its business, on the other hand, the commitment to power and innovation only increases: with the growth in the size of ships sailing along the Brazilian coast, tugboats need to become even more powerful. “The world scenario has changed and ships are bigger to optimize freight. Here in Brazil, we see the same movement, especially on commodity routes, such as iron ore, with more containers. Because of this, we invest heavily in engineering. More than half of our fleet has more than 60 of bollard pull, and the new ones exceed 90.”  

The maneuverability of Wilson Sons Tugboats stands out as a great differential. “Our ability to operate in narrower channels provides more safety to shipowners.” In addition, app connectivity ensures efficient communication with the partner, Dourado adds. 

“Here at Wilson Sons we have systems that meet this demand. With WS Connect, our partner can understand all the data of their operation, not only the location of their ship, documentation, and upcoming calls, but also predictive analytics regarding their cargo. All this information is produced within the company, and this is another way that we can support decision-makers in their logistics planning and thus build a relationship with a solid foundation of trust.”

This is not the only example of the employment of new technologies. “Without a doubt, Wilson Sons operates with leadership in innovation in the sector. With the Tug Lab, we are always looking for the continuous improvement of our operations, and with our immersive simulator, at the William Salomon Maritime Improvement Center, we train our entire team of commanders, reproducing customized situations for each port, ensuring the safety and efficiency of real operations at sea”, adds the executive. 

In addition, Wilson Sons has a close relationship with startups in the industry, better known as shiptechs. Since 2019, the company has been a partner of Cubo Itaú, the largest technological entrepreneurship center in Latin America, and founded Cubo Maritime & Port as a member, the first innovation hub dedicated to the sector in the region. From this relationship, major projects have already been born, such as the recent launch of ArTeMIS, a real-time vessel monitoring software developed in partnership with Argonáutica, a startup part of the hub that even received contributions from the company in the last year. “One of the advantages of ArTeMIS is the integration with external data sources, making it possible to check the weather conditions of the ports, such as tide, current and wind.”

Until then, the company had partnerships with foreign startups, such as DockTech, which transformed Wilson Sons’ fleet of more than 80 Tugboats into true data miners. “We are the largest fleet in Brazil and we have the largest coverage in the country. By using digital twin technology to monitor in real time the depth conditions of the seabed of ports and shipping lanes in which we operate, it is possible to understand silting patterns and promote safer, more sustainable and efficient navigation.” Thus, the fleet became capable of generating intelligence data that support the logistical planning of shipowners, terminals and ports, even yielding the first contract signed between a Brazilian port authority and a foreign shiptech.

About the future, Dourado is optimistic. With the increase in exports, mainly of agricultural commodities, Brazil has been observing an increase in the flow of large ships, which need to rely on towing services with a world standard of quality.

“Navigation is of the world. When I travel outside Brazil, I see that we are seen as benchmarking. We are well positioned. With the strengthening of our fleet, our perspective is for growth.”

Are you interested? Request the contact of an expert and get to know everything that the more sustainable fleet of Wilson Sons Towage can offer your business.